A true tale of love, liberty and scandal amongst the Edwardian artists' colony in CornwallA true tale of love, liberty and scandal amongst the Edwardian artists' colony in CornwallA true tale of love, liberty and scandal amongst the Edwardian artists' colony in Cornwall
The screenplay is drawn from a novel based on real events, with the future Dame Laura Knight as the moving force behind the group, played with gusto by Hattie Morahan. Her patronising of gypsy communities may be called... well, patronising, but it lends colour to this film, along with the equine theme, giving us not only a dramatic race-meeting down on the beach, but also some well-deserved exposure for Munnings' acclaimed horse-paintings.
Artists' communes are always incestuous, and the main story is a love-triangle, with Munnings and his friend Gilbert competing for the hopelessly unstable Florence Carter-Wood, played in a suitably minor key by Emily Browning. A discreet view of a local artist's model emerging naked from the sea brings out the insecurity in Florence, who stands in front of the mirror anxiously comparing her own endowments. Later, when she is shown Munnings' portrait of her, proudly displayed at the Royal Academy, she attempts suicide because his portraits of other women are also on display. By now, Munnings and Florence have married, but the non-chemistry between them is painfully obvious. Gilbert's relationship with her is far more harmonious. But he is just off to the war, as the end-titles helpfully notify us.
The producers are obviously trying to achieve a Brideshead touch, but the characters are not sharply drawn, and we are mainly just drifting in an agreeable atmosphere of rocky coves, gypsy violins against the surf, passionate poetry recitals and credible period dialogue, not without appropriate elements of coarseness.
Laura's husband, the eminent Harold Knight, is somewhat thrown away. And one of the poems ends with the words 'Summer in February', which are left hanging there as the title of the film, though their meaning is hard indeed to fathom. IMDb mentions a running-time of 100 minutes, so my HD version at 82 must be missing some scenes. It is certainly missing professional post-production - ye gods, the audio is something like two seconds out of kilter with the video!
- Nov 13, 2015